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House Judiciary Approves Bill Ending Bulk NSA Data Collection

The House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote has unanimously approved the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361). The bill would end bulk data collection by the National Security Agency, as well as boost transparency and reporting requirements for targeted data requests, require more specificity in those requests, and minimize retention and dissemination of nonpublic data.

The compromise version hashed out over the past weekend was said to be a compromise between Judiciary chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.). The bill was sponsored by Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

The White House has taken some steps to reign in NSA data collection, but not enough for critics, including a host of groups planning a day of activism June 5, the anniversary of the first story about NSA surveillance, based on info from leaker Edward Snowden.

At the bill's markup Wednesday, the recurring theme was that the legislation would end bulk data collection that had been conducted, but shouldn't have been, under The PATRIOT Act.

An amendment was defeated that could have led to private companies having to retain customer data longer than they currently do.

Sensenbrenner called the compromise a strong one, but one that left intact the "unequivocal" end to bulk data collection by the NSA. Conyers called it an imperfect compromise, but one he could support. Goodlatte said it protected both government interests and fundamental civil liberties.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the bill "the first real chance to place real legislative limits on sweeping, unwarranted and, I think, unlawful surveillance."

“This historic vote by the House Judiciary Committee to ban the government’s bulk collection of any records – telephone records, Internet records, financial records, or any others – is a milestone in the push to rein in the NSA’s surveillance authority," said Kevin Bankston, policy director of New America's Open Technology Institute (OTI). "Based on this strong bipartisan show of support for real NSA reform, we hope the House Intelligence Committee will abandon its much weaker reform bill and instead approve the USA FREEDOM Act when it meets tomorrow.  It’s time to put aside fake fixes and ban bulk collection for good, and we thank Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers for coming together across party lines to make sure USA FREEDOM moves forward.”